You just never know when a natural disaster might occur. A flood, a tornado, a hurricane, or an earthquake could happen at any moment. Who can we look to for guidance during these moments?
As disciples of Jesus Christ, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”] strive to follow the Savior’s admonition to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison. The Savior also taught that we are to love and care for each other and visit the fatherless and the widow in their afflictions (see LDS.org).
On Monday, May 20, 2013, a devastating tornado hit five American states, the worst of which was in Moore, Oklahoma. It took the lives of at least 24 people, 9 of which were children. It is during such a situation that we should all take a step back and send our love and prayers to those who have been so tragically affected.
In Oklahoma, members of The Church of Jesus Christ (nicknamed “Mormons”) are getting their “hands dirty” by rallying together to administer help to those in need. They didn’t decide that they would help out after the tornado hit—they decided a long time ago when they made a covenant (a two-way promise) with God at the time of their baptism to keep the two great commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ — to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors as themselves. How are these Mormons helping? Read more
Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization, can literally say “thanks a million” to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—for a recent food donation. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ collected and donated more than a million pounds of food to the organization. 
“The commitment from our supporting partners helps make Feeding America’s work possible and provides hungry Americans with food, hope and dignity every day,” said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America. “Thanks to the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this most recent donation will provide the equivalent of 625,000 much-needed meals.” 
The Church’s donation of canned goods includes fruit, vegetables and legumes that will be distributed to families in need at community pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the nation. The nonprofit organization, based in Chicago, supports more than 200 food banks. “Feeding America will distribute the food based on three factors: the number of clients served by a network food bank, the level of poverty of its clients and the food bank’s need for a particular food product on the list of donated items.” 
The Utah Food Bank is a member of the Feeding America network and will receive 250,000 pounds of the donation. 
“This donation from the LDS Church could not have come at a better time for [us],” said Karen Sendelback, CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “The food will help fill a large need over the summer for our fellow Utahans who struggle to put food on the table each day. We are so very grateful.”  Read more
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often known as Mormons, have made a 200,000 dollar challenge donation to the Volunteers of America, to be used for their Adult Detoxification Center in Utah. Challenge donations mean the organization receiving the grant must raise a matching amount of money themselves. This type of grant motivates donors to provide more money, thus increasing the value of the donation. They have raised more than half the money already.
The detoxification center allows hospitals to transfer patients there instead of utilizing bed space in a hospital and also allows someone to go to the center instead of prison. They can receive more targeted assistance in an environment designed just for that purpose. Recipients have described the atmosphere as kind and supportive.
The Mormons have donated in-kind donations to the center in the past. The center is unable to receive meat, cheese, and produce from food banks and so the Mormons have donated those types of things from their storehouses. The Bishop’s storehouse is used to provide for the needy in their congregations but are also used to provide donations to other non-profits. The Mormons also donate wool blankets in the winter. This is the first time they have provided a challenge donation.
The grant will allow the center to remodel and add ten beds. There is a desperate need for those ten beds. In 2012, Utah had 88,251 adults and 12,189 children in need of treatment for drugs and alcohol. Only seventeen percent of those were able to be helped by public program. 83,414 people need help in Utah but are unable to receive it.
Mormons frequently seek out organizations within their local communities to serve, both in time and in materials donations. It is, for them, part of their God-give admonition to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who spent His ministry caring for others. He served His followers and He also served those who were not His followers. They look for ways to assist that will promote self-sufficiency an allow people to turn their lives around and to become everything they want to become.
On December 3, Typhoon Pablo touched ground at Mindanao in the Philippines. More than 1000 people died and some 2000 homes were damaged. Unfortunately, due to low international publicity, the United Nations struggled to obtain the funds needed to step in and help. Despite the fact that the storm was a category five and Hurricane Sandy, which warranted a great deal of attention and donation, was only a one, the international community seemed less interested in this storm and the desperate needs of the people there.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, are headquartered in the United States but are an international church. They go wherever they are needed in the world. The Mormons immediately went to work, providing much needed funds, supplies, and volunteer manpower to help ease the suffering. They provided 4,000 bags of relief goods, 400 volunteers from local Mormon congregations, nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service, and 300 toilet bowls. They also brought in medical supplies, and kitchen supplies. They donated their meetinghouses as shelters. Volunteers went to work performing clean-up assistance in schools and other local facilities. To increase their efficiency, they partnered with non-government organizations that already had programs in place and understood the local needs.
Mormon volunteers gathered to repackage rice, canned foods, and essential supplies so that other volunteers could distribute them to people who received claim stubs in hard-hit areas.
Many government buildings were destroyed or rendered unusuable, making it hard for local areas to even get started. 50 Mormon volunteers, ages twelve and older, traveled 67 kilometers to reach Compostela Valley, one of the hardest hit areas. They were delayed by a bus engine failure, but received training on arrival and then camped out. At six the next morning, they were ready to start work. They spent the morning cleaning the gym and high school inside and out. They removed trees and collected debris. When they finished their work, they donated their tools to the municipality so they would be available for other projects. They then spent days distributing much needed supplies—food, hygiene kits, medicine, tents, and toilets. Other volunteers joined them and in some activities, they partnered with Catholic Relief Services, with whom they had worked in the past.
Services were given to anyone in need, not just the Mormons. No missionary work took place in conjunction with the humanitarian project.
Read about another rescue effort during flooding in the Philippines.
The project was a function of Mormon Helping Hands, which began as a grass roots effort to help local areas in times of need or to provide civic and charitable improvements in a local area. The program gained in popularity and is now mobilized world-wide when help is needed. The volunteers, members of Mormon congregations and those who wish to assist them, wear bright yellow vests, which allow local citizens to approach them when they have needs. They are seen in force after weather emergencies, usually long after most volunteers have moved on to the next news-worthy project.
LDS Charities is in charge of the donations of supplies and the coordination of services in these emergencies. In 2012, the Mormons stepped in to assist with 104 disasters in 52 countries. They provided 8 million dollars in aid and 1.1 million hours of volunteer labor was provided by church members for these projects. The services relieved suffering in weather-related disasters, areas of famine, and in cases of civil unrest causing refugee suffering.
LDS Charities exists to carry out the Savior’s command to love and serve one another. Although the Mormons have been involved in humanitarian efforts since its earliest days, LDS Charities was formed in 1996 to enhance the church’s ability to reach out.
“Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Charities is an application of the admonition of Jesus Christ to help others in need. Jesus Christ taught His followers to give meat to the hungry and drink to those who thirst. His is a gospel that includes taking in the stranger, loving neighbors as self, and visiting those who are sick or imprisoned. He taught that we are to love and care for each other, visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and lift up those whose hands hang down and whose knees are feeble” (LDS Charities website).
The program is funded by donations from Church members and even from those outside the church, often people who have received assistance or simply want to participate in the program’s initiatives. All donations go directly to aid and overhead is covered by other church funds.
In addition to disaster relief, LDS Charities carries out a number of initiatives, including neonatal resuscitation, clean water, immunizations, vision care, food production and health concerns. They often partner with other organizations, including Islamic Relief Worldwide and L V Prasad Eye Institute in India.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) possess an innate nature to want to serve their fellowman. They are always ready and willing to answer the call to serve wherever and whenever needed.
Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught the Saints, “[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” (1) That is a lesson that was meant not only for the Saints of Joseph Smith’s day, but even today for every member of The Church of Jesus Christ to take to heart and follow.
In the Holy Bible, in the New Testament book of James are recorded the words, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27.) Visiting and ministering to the fatherless and widows in their affliction is exactly what LDS humanitarian missionaries, Jim and Karyn Anderson, did on a daily basis as they rendered unselfish service to Jordan’s surging population of Syrian refugees. Their mission exemplified the teachings of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), when in his timeless sermon he exhorted the people, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17.)
Jordan is certainly worlds away from the bucolic and tranquil life in Farmington, Utah where Jim was a bank president and Karyn was a nurse who often traveled with Operation Smile – a children’s charity dedicated to treating facial deformities across the globe. The couple, now in their 60′s, could have scarcely imagined when they accepted the call to serve The Church of Jesus Christ in any capacity, that they would be supervising gravel work in a windy, dusty, teeming refugee camp or comforting escapees from a brutal conflict in which more than 34,000 Syrians had been killed according to the Syrian Observer. Jordan’s open-border policy grants refuge to all those escaping the warfare. They hail from both sides of the conflict causing heightening tensions in the camps.
United Nations Refugee Agency Liaison Officer, Ali Bibi, said more than 215,000 Syrians had taken shelter in Jordan. He further stated that this wave strained Jordan, the fourth-poorest country in the world in terms of water, which had to house and feed tens of thousands of newcomers.
“Major infrastructure developments are occurring on a daily basis,” Bibi says, “in addition to the support of food and nonfood items.”
The camps also are moving to dry-food rations, which the refugees can cook themselves.
“Jordan is doing its best,” he says. “We need the international support to move forward in supporting Jordan in assisting with transition commodities.” 
That is where faithful, humble servants like the Andersons and other aid workers come in. When the LDS couple arrived in Jordan in April 2012, they went to several cities in the north, where refugees — hungry, hurting, disoriented and with only the clothes on their back — cross the border.
“We spent a little time visiting some of the wounded who had come across, those that were in prison, tortured,” Karyn Anderson says. “We saw one young man, 18 years old, who had fled when the attacks came in his area. When he [went] back, his mother, father, two sisters and brother all had their throats slit.” 
The Andersons focused their time and efforts on Jordan’s largest Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari, a sprawling tent city about two hours from Amman, Jordan that houses more than 35,000 people. Located near the northern border city of Mafraq, the camp is essentially in a desert, where hot, dusty gales uproot tents and send families scrambling.
“We saw it before the first tent went up, and our impression was, ‘They can’t move people out here,’ ” says Jim Anderson. “There wasn’t water. There wasn’t a town nearby. There wasn’t a way to allow them to be mobile.” 
In representing LDS Charities, a humanitarian outreach agency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Andersons worked with many aid organizations, especially the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (JHCO), which oversees all Syrian relief efforts and partners with the United Nations to run the camps. The Andersons say they assessed needs and “fill in the gaps,” providing help where they can — more in the form of “hand-ups,” not “handouts.”
Before the Zaatari camp opened, Jordan attempted to absorb the refugees into society, but the effort overwhelmed an already-weak economy, so the government launched a large-scale camp. By the time Zaatari came online, it had 8,000 refugees waiting. Now camps are mandatory for all Syrian refugees with guards and police helping to keep the peace.
On a chaotic first day, the camp didn’t have restroom facilities, washing areas, or even water. Now it has restrooms, operational kitchens and some semblance of order. UNICEF and Save the Children organizations provide schools and were expected to be able to handle 5,000 kids by December 2012 which was still a mere fraction of the almost 14,000 children in the camp.
The United Nations strives to erect hundreds of new tents every 24 hours to accommodate the tide of refugees, which rises and falls depending on the bloodshed in Syria and has been as high as 2,500 tents in one day. While the strain is great and conditions dismal, Jim Anderson said that he saw improvement.
“There are so many dedicated charitable people working,” he says. “I have a great admiration for what Jordan is doing for these refugees.” 
LDS Charities partnered with its Jordanian counterpart to haul in 20 trucks full of gravel to tamp down the dust which continuously plagues the camp, not only invading the food and the tents, but the swirling dust also makes everything look the same, disorienting children and families who can’t find their new homes. Women use their headscarves to cover their babies while men frantically tie down loose ends and possessions. Refugees took buckets of the gravel to spread outside their tents.
Another challenge comes when distributing donations among the refugees. The sheer number of refugees makes it hard to have enough for everyone.
“A series of riots over living conditions caused thousands of dollars of extensive damage,” The Jordan Times reported. Refugees torched warehouses and tents and injured guards.
“Just when you think you’ve solved one problem, the camp expands [dramatically],” says Karyn Anderson, “so you go to Plan B tomorrow. It’s just a continual challenge.” 
This is not exactly how the Mormon couple expected to spend their “golden years.” LDS couples, usually after retirement, can apply for volunteer, full-time missions. In the Andersons’ case, the Church called them. As soon as Jim announced he would be ending his career as president of the Bank of Utah in June 2010, an LDS Church official asked if he and his wife would like to go on a mission. When later told it would be in the Middle East, they didn’t hesitate. Jim retired 31 December 2010, and a month later they were on their way.
The couple spent two weeks commuting to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and attended orientation sessions at the LDS Church Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
They were assigned to Beirut, where they spent 14 months distributing hygiene kits, providing beds to a women’s prison and performing other tasks. Then they were transferred to Jordan.
Though they were Mormon missionaries, the Andersons did not proselytize. Their aim was to foster good will and create relationships with people, communities and countries. Similarities between Mormonism and Islam helped them bond with many in the Middle East.
It was hard for them to be so far away from family, the Andersons concede. Between them, they have 16 children and 35 grandchildren — four of whom were been born while they served their mission. “Did we ever think we’d come on a mission like this?” Karyn asks. “No.” But, “We have backgrounds that are conducive to being volunteers,” she says. “We [were] raised in that culture of giving service.”  .
1. Editor’s reply to a letter from Richard Savary, Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, p. 732; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.
Mormons in Salem, Indiana donated two thousand pounds of food to a local food bank. Mormon is a nickname sometimes used to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The effort was part of an ongoing initiative to help victims of the spring storms. After the storms, teams of Mormon Volunteers, known as Mormon Helping Hands, came in to do storm cleanup for anyone who needed it, regardless of faith. In addition to this effort, the Mormons sent in three truckloads of supplies.
However, even when the emergencies move out of the public’s focus, the needs continue to exist. Mormons are often found working at the problems long after most people have gone on to the next popular project. There has been an ongoing need for food at the Washington County Food Bank, so Mormon teenagers began a food drive, inviting shoppers at two stores to donate a portion of the food they purchased. They collected one thousand pounds of food. The Church then matched their effort and donated a second thousand pounds.
The food donated by the Church comes from the Bishop’s storehouses. Mormons maintain storehouses to provide food for their own members in need but also send food out into the community as needed.
The storehouses are filled through donations called Fast Offerings. Once a month, usually the first Sunday of each month, Mormons who are healthy enough to do so go without food or drink for twenty-four hours, which amounts to two meals. They donate the money they saved by not consuming anything to the Fast Offering fund. This money is then used to care for the poor in their own congregations. If the congregation does not need all the funds collected, it can be shared with congregations that have greater need or it is used to help people who are not Mormon.
Because the Mormons meet the needs of their own members, they do not need to rely on outside charity or government funds. That leaves more resources for those organizations to help others. Since Mormons consider their congregations a second family, this is akin to helping your own family in times of need.
When a Mormon has a need, he or she can contact the bishop, a lay pastor. After he reviews their financial situation, he can authorize assistance in a variety of areas to provide the necessities of life. This is intended to be temporary help while the person gets things back under control.
Most Mormons prepare for disasters by storing food, avoiding debt, and living below their means. Of course, that doesn’t protect them from sometimes needing help. While they receive assistance, they volunteer to help others in need, including volunteering at the storehouses. This helps them maintain a sense of independence and pride because they are contributing to their family’s care while helping others. They can also participate in programs designed to help them become more self-sufficient. Mormon women operate a literacy program open to both men and women to help improve literacy—a skill necessary for most jobs. Each congregation has an employment specialist who can help members put together resumes, practice interviewing, and learn how to conduct a job search. Other programs help members learn to use money wisely, manage family needs, and prepare for emergencies.
The storehouses contain foods canned, purchased, or grown by the Church in order to maintain a stable list of items. Members meet with the bishop or the president of the women’s auxiliary, the Relief Society, to select the foods their family needs. Unlike most food banks, they receive all food and care items they need. Excess food is donated to community programs and many of the church canneries also donate use of their facilities to non-profits.
Read more about the Mormon food drive.
Many are familiar with the words of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Holy Bible, in the New testament, in Matthew 25: 34-40 which read:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) are a charitable people by nature and strive to emulate the love of the Savior by always being willing to “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12) whenever and wherever they can. The service that Latter-day Saints generously provide to others is not limited solely to members of The Church of Jesus Christ, but believing that all mankind are their brothers and sisters, they willingly and unselfishly give of their time, talent, abilities, resources, and services to aid those in need regardless of religious affiliations or beliefs.
Throughout the world there are members of The Church of Jesus Christ who take the teachings of the Master to heart, and strive to do their part to make the world a better place for their fellowman, especially those of less fortunate circumstances. One such humanitarian is Steve Kyalo. Kyalo is a familiar figure to many Utahns who have gone to Kenya on LDS missions. What they didn’t realize for years, according to returned missionary David Jensen, is that Kyalo was quietly taking starving orphans off the streets and giving them hope. The missionaries believe Kyalo has supported the orphanage using his own meager income derived from wood carving. His wood carvings are popular with missionaries. He specializes in creating works with Christian scenes. The most popular are depictions of Noah’s ark, complete with pairs of animals, and a nativity scene. 
Kyalo runs a two-room orphanage in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya where 89 children sleep every night, mostly on the floor. For many of these children it may well be the best thing that has ever happened to them, for at least they are staying with someone who genuinely cares about them. In recent days he has been visiting Utah, making the rounds to various church groups, seeking funds to help support his makeshift orphanage. “My goal is to help 1,000 children before I die,” Kyalo said. “That’s my plan.”  He said there are 1.5 million orphaned children in Nairobi, 90 percent of whom lost their parents to the ravages of AIDS. 
Kyalo converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 20 years ago, but kept his orphanage quiet for years and never asked for money. He said that the orphanage had its start when he was touched by seeing orphaned kids in the slums of Nairobi. “They are actually in the streets and they are begging for something to eat,” Kyalo said. “They want something just to put in their mouth, something to cover their stomach. So I decided, ‘Let me take these children to my house so that I would be able to stay with them and try to feed them.’” 
As he took in more and more orphaned children, Kyalo rented a two-room house and a tin shack in Nairobi to use as a school. He even pays the teachers. His Nazarene Orphan Center has only a few beds. Most of the 89 children currently living there sleep on mattresses placed on the floor, and toilet facilities are primitive. “That is as humble as you’ll find any place,” Jensen said. “It’s almost like the slums.” 
Jensen is helping Kyalo raise funds in Utah. He set up meetings with officials of Overstock.Com and the company agreed to help out as they plan to sell Kyalo’s wood -carvings through Overstock’s non-profit arm, Worldstock.Com. An account has also been established at Zions Bank for contributions to the Nazarene Orphan’s Center.
This act of charity is an example and reminder of the words of King Benjamin in his discourse recorded in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) in Mosiah 4:19-21:
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy. And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
King Benjamin’s further counseled the people, “I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give” (Mosiah 4:24.) A person should strive to live his life with the attitude of gratitude realizing that because he has been given much, he too must give. When a person shows love and kindness towards his fellowman, he is in essence demonstrating his love for the Savior.
Article was written by Keith Brown
President Thomas S. Monson, the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught members, “May I share with you a formula that in my judgment will help you and help me to journey well through mortality… First, fill your mind with truth; second, fill your life with service; and third, fill your heart with love” (Thomas S. Monson, “Formula for Success,” Ensign, Mar. 1996, 2.) President Monson has also said, “Service, to be acceptable to the Savior, must come from willing minds, ready hands, and pledged hearts” (President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1994, 62.)
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ do indeed have “willing minds, ready hands, and pledged hearts” to help those who are in need and who are perhaps, due to life circumstances and their current station in life, less fortunate than themselves. Mormons (as they are so often referred) stand ready to be of service to their brothers and sisters, whenever and wherever needed.
On 15 September 2012, ten congregations from The Church of Jesus Christ delivered non-perishable food items to a Covington, Kentucky food pantry. The food drive which was organized by the LDS congregations in Northern Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana benefited Be Concerned, Inc. at a time when it was so desperately needed. The congregations collected the food from members and neighbors, and in addition to the food collected, a truckload of non-perishable goods from the LDS Church’s regional food distribution center in Columbus, Ohio was also delivered.
“Our food supplies are very low at the current time and we are trying to help a growing number of people, so it’s wonderful that local Mormon congregations have elected to do a food drive for us now,” Paul Gottbrath, director of the pantry, said in a release.  Latter-day Saints and their friends also volunteered during the week at Be Concerned helping shoppers in the agency’s free pantry to obtain the food items that they needed for subsistence.
Be Concerned, which began as a Christmas program in 1968 and opened its free pantry in 1987, is located at 714 Washington Avenue in Covington, Kentucky. The agency provides food to about 840 low-income families a month from Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties. Families shop monthly by appointment and receive $40 to $70 worth of food during each visit. Families may stay on the program as long as their need persists. 
By Keith Brown
On August 7, 2012, powerful monsoons drenched Manila, leading to dangerous flooding and a landslide. The rain received in just twenty-four hours was equal to that normally received in two weeks. Homes were washed away and more than 250,000 people are homeless and fifty are dead. More than 800,000 people are impacted by the floods. Five feet of water covers the major roadways.
As is common in these situations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, has stepped in to provide aid. They confer with government officials to find out what help is wanted and then bring in supplies and volunteers. Mormon meetinghouses are opened as non-sectarian shelters.
The Church Area Office building in Quezon has been set up as a humanitarian aid center. Volunteers are meeting in the basement and garage to pack humanitarian kits with supplies provided by the Mormons. Volunteers came from Mormon congregations throughout the area to repackage rice and to pack hygiene kits and diapers. The packaged kits would then be taken to the shelters in the area. Many of the Mormon volunteers left homes that were flooded, but still stepped in to help others rather than taking care of their own needs.
The Church immediately provided food, sleeping mats, blankets and hygiene kits. Additional funds and supplies were released after that. As they often do, the Mormons partnered with local organizations which already have the resources in place to determine who needs supplies in order to distribute them effectively.
Many senior missionaries—retired couples who volunteer to serve for a few years—have left their own flooded apartments to travel into areas that have greater need. Missionaries, in a crisis, halt missionary work and become humanitarian aid volunteers until the crisis ends.
Benson Misalucha, Church welfare director for the Philippines, has been assessing needs and orchestrating the relief effort. He is prepared to invite large numbers of Mormons to help out in what has come to be known as the Helping Hands program. Volunteers at church community projects where distinctive yellow Helping Hands vests so their leaders can easily identify them as they work.
Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) teach their members to work towards self-reliance. This means both men and women are encouraged to get an education so they are prepared for employment. It means to develop employment skills and also personal skills that help us to do the things we need to do in life. Mormons are taught to be financially responsible—to live within their means, to avoid debt, and to have savings. They learn to store food and other supplies that can be used to sustain life in the event of a weather emergency or unemployment.
However, even the best-prepared person can find himself in a financial situation that makes self-sufficiency impossible. A year’s supply of food may not last through an unemployment lasting two years, as many do today. An unexpected serious illness may use up all of a person’s savings. For this reason, Mormons are taught to take care of one another. Much of this care gets done informally—a basket of food left anonymously on a doorstep, an envelope with cash handed to someone by the bishop who says a congregation member wanted them to have it but wished to be unknown, a member finding odd jobs for someone in need.
Most needs, however, are larger than congregation members can manage on their own. For this reason, the Mormons have a welfare system to help people in the church who have temporary financial needs. This is a separate program from the humanitarian aid program, which helps world-wide regardless of a person’s religion.
One Sunday a month, Mormons are asked to fast for twenty-four hours. This is a complete fast with no food or drink of any kind, and is limited to those old enough and healthy enough to do so safely. They are then asked to donate the money they saved by not eating or drinking to a special fund called a fast offering. The fast offering is used to help people in their own congregation with temporary emergency financial needs. If a congregation has few needs, the excess is used to help those congregations with greater needs.
In order for a person to receive assistance, he must be a member of the church. He meets with his bishop to go over his financial situation to demonstrate he has cut his budget to a reasonable level and made attempts to care for himself. For instance, a person with a gym membership would most often be expected to have eliminated that, since it is not necessary for most people. The bishop makes suggestions for cutting the budget and then evaluates the needs the church can assist with. Food is the most common assistance.
Mormons have their own food banks, called bishop’s storehouses. These look like small grocery stores, except there is no cash register. Instead, Mormons in need are given a list of foods available (they do not use randomly donated foods, but have their own farms and canneries). They select what they need and the bishop reviews it, making changes as needed. Sometimes this is done with the help of the Relief Society president. The Relief Society is the women’s auxiliary. The person then takes his approved list to the storehouse, where volunteers help him fill his order. While most community food banks can only give a person a bag or two of groceries every two weeks, due to the need to feed anyone who comes in, the storehouse provides everything a person needs to survive the two weeks. The order includes food, hygiene items, personal care items, and cleaning supplies. This is possible only because they serve a limited number of people. Because they receive everything they need from the church, they do not need to draw on the government or other charities, leaving more supplies and money for others in the community.
In exchange for this service, Mormons volunteer to assist in their church. Most already have a volunteer position, called a calling, but those receiving help take on additional responsibilities—not enough to pay for the services, but enough to help them feel they are contributing to their own well-being. This is an important part of a Mormon’s self-esteem. They usually help at the storehouse when they pick up their order. They might also volunteer to clean the building, volunteer at the cannery, or show up for gardening days.
This is a program that allows people to sustain life while they get back on their feet, but which also sustains their self-esteem and self-respect. A part of the program also includes providing assistance in learning self-reliance skills. Most congregations have an employment specialist who can help members learn how to find jobs, write resumes, and manage interviews. They also offer literacy programs through the Relief Society. Some congregations teach people to speak the native language of the country. If a member needs help learning to budget, to cook inexpensively, or to use a computer, there are always church members ready to step in if a class is not being offered.
Because Mormons help each other in good times, and because they have done their best to prepare for difficult times, they are not embarrassed to receive help when they really need it. They have followed the church’s order of operations. Mormons try to help themselves first through prudent financial management. They help their family when there is a need. They ask the church to step in when those options fail. Knowing they have done all they can do on their own, they can maintain a healthy self-image when they do need help.
This is welfare the Lord’s way. The Savior helped those who could not help themselves, but He generally expected something from those He helped. He sent them to wash, required them to have faith, or placed some other expectation on them, knowing people appreciate things more when they have contributed to their own well-being.
“The welfare program has a great significance in the Lord’s work. We must take care of [people’s] material needs … before we can lift their thinking to a higher plane. Therein is the purpose of the Lord’s welfare program that He has had in His Church in every dispensation from the very beginning….
“When a home is shattered because of the needs of food and shelter and clothing and fuel, … the first thing we have to do is to build a sense of security, a sense of material well-being, before we can begin to lift the family to the plane where we can instill in them faith. That is the beginning, but unless we have the objective of what we do as to the building of faith, the mere giving of material aid fails. Now, we must understand that, if we just try to build faith without first filling their stomachs and seeing that they are properly clothed and properly housed and properly warmed, perhaps we will fail in the building of faith.” 4 (“Chapter 18: Providing in the Lord’s Way,“ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, , 168)
Learn more about the LDS Welfare Program.